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The rain had stopped just a while ago but the little droplets were trickling down the glass of the window each making their own path to the window sill. Roma looked out of the window, she could see the crimson sun setting amidst the tall coconut trees. In the ground nearby little boys in half pants and bare bodies were kicking around the football in mud and slush. They were completely drenched in mud yet they were laughing, shouting and shoving each other merrily. Roma turned away from the window and looked around the room, in one corner was the ‘bed’ of quilts,blankets and pillows which was rolled up neatly, beside it was the harmonium, tanpura and the mat rolled up, set vertically against the wall, beside it was a trunk with a huge padlock which contained the “valuables”. On the other corner was a kerosene stove and a few pots, pans and just beside the ‘bathroom’s’ tin door was a big iron bucket with a blue handle-broken plastic mug floating in it. On the wall beside window was the small mirror and an old calendar with Ma Kali’s picture decorated with a dried, dusty hibiscus garland. Roma glanced at the clock “its time, they’ll be here, let me get ready” she thought.
I know this will hurt you a lot but I am left with no other option. I have to go as he is waiting for me in a taxi at the bus stand. I have thought a lot about the proposal but still couldn’t accept father’s chosen man. Ma I am leaving the ‘home’ where I spent my entire childhood to start ‘my own’ family. I am not taking any jewelery or the Benarosi you had selected for me, just taking a small chain and abundant courage which I inherited from you. I think that’s the biggest gift Ma from you.
I know I am leaving loads of insults for you, this disaster of girl eloping on the eve of marriage. But it’s not the age of playing with dolls Ma, this is life, real family. Ma you had said once that’s its hard to recognize people it’s the heart that is important not the money. Number of rich, handsome boys have tried to seduce me with their money and fame but I knew ultimately they would dump me. He is not so good-looking and has lots of shortcomings. He doesn’t have rich or famous lineage but has the courage to speak truth.
Ma I am leaving for good and will not return ever.
Your most loving daughter
Its been so long but Roma still remembers each and every word of the letter she had kept on her cot before leaving. She had left dressed as maid servant to avoid detection of her father and uncles. Anirban and his friend were waiting in the taxi at the bus stand as promised. They had gone to Kalighat directly and got married with the blessings from Maa Kali. Then they had fled to another city where Anirban’s friend had arranged a place of stay for them.Life was a picking up its rhythm in those first days. Anirban used go in search of some work and Roma would try to set-up her new ‘home’. She would lovingly sweep the floor, get water from the community hand-pump and cook. It was same Roma who actually had never entered the kitchen or done any housework in her ‘mother’s home’ because they had maids and servants to do everything. Her job was to just open her mouth sometimes even that was not required Ma would do that. Now Roma was doing everything for love. Anirban too was very nice he used to eat with a smile whatever palatable or otherwise was put by Roma on his plate. On weekends they would go to parks and gardens around the city just as they used to do before marriage. In short life was a bliss.
“What you just got that silly necklace from your home and nothing else” uttered Anirban in frustration.
“But I never knew you were interested in jewelery, money etc” Roma was still shocked at Anirban’s enquiry of her jewelery.
“No I was not but I never contemplated the situation would turn so bad and thought you were very pragmatic … life can’t be led just on ideals, love etc. It needs food, shelter and clothing” Anirban seemingly disgusted.
Things started getting haywire when Anirban lost his day job and failed to get another job. He would do some petty jobs and bring home whatever he could but most of the times it was not enough. Roma started giving tuitions and music lessons to children in the locality and somehow they were able to make ends meet.
Roma was helped by didis of nari niketan to learn stitching and start working in the garments section of the co-operative. Meanwhile Anirban started drinking and stopped looking for any permanent job and would lie at home whole day idling or drinking. Roma tried very hard to stop Anirban from drinking by refusing him any money but he would not listen. Anirban would do some petty work and finance his drinking. If she denied him food, he would arrange his food outside somehow but would not stop drinking. He would sleep outside when Roma denied him entry to their home. Though he never created any ruckus or hit Roma in his drunken state but would not stop drinking either.
Roma watched helplessly as Anirban wasted himself away. She contemplated suicide many times but couldn’t do it ultimately as she was not that courageous to kill herself. Hence she surrendered herself to fate and continued her life by giving tuitions in morning, working for the co-operative in the afternoon and giving music lessons in the evening and kept hoping that one day things will change for better.
PS: This is my tribute to a famous Bengali song called “Roma” by Anjan Dutta. In fact Bengali friends would have noticed that the letter is nothing but an English translation of the song. After listening to the song I always thought what might have happened to Roma after she fled, Did she have a happy ending or otherwise? As far my personal experience is I have seen Romas having both happy and tragic ends.